March 10, 2016

BiH Central Census Bureau tomorrow will try to reach an agreement on the biggest question in the census project which jeopardises the entire project and has brought BiH in a situation to be the only country in the world which doesn’t have a clue about the number of its citizens and much more.

The dispute between Serb members of the Bureau with their colleagues from BiH Federation is so deep that results are waiting to be published for so long that experts warn that they might not be relevant anymore. The census was performed in fall 2013 and the latest deadline for its publishing is the middle of this year. In the scenario that members of Bureau fail to agree tomorrow, there are two options. The first option is they can demand the change of law and extend the deadline for the publication of the census results and second otion is to declare that the entire project has ended in failure. If they declare it has failed, the data obtained from the census of population, households and apartments agencies for statistic, would be used for internal purpose, but the problem is that these data will not be able to get international verification. In the case that at the members made any progress on the session on the proposal of the BiH Ministry of Civil Affairs, the BiH Parliament would have to adopt changes to the Law on Census of Population and Housing, and the deadline for the publication of the results, which is indicated as July 1 this year, be moved for few months.

The issue which caused the problem is that Serb members of Bureau disagree with Bosniaks on the determination of who is a “resident” and who is not. Serbs think that residents cannot be those persons who have an address in BiH and actually live in some other country, but Bosniaks insist that they must be considered as permanent inhabitants in BiH. Both sides justify their standpoint with international standards but, in fact, there was no similar case in recent census history in the world.

“Census Offices of the Agency for Statistics of BiH agree that, if there is no agreement on this issue no later than 15 March 2016, statistical institutions in BiH will not be able to publish the results of the census within the statutory deadline for publishing the results, announced the Agency for statistics of BiH.

How important is this issue for the census can be seen in the fact that the difference in population depending on which standard will be applied is about 300,000 inhabitants. For administrative purposes, BiH still uses the results of the census performed 1991, which was never verified in Parliament, due to the start of the war. Bosniak politicians still insist that all administration in BiH must be a mirror of these census results.

Mladen Dragojlovic